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NFL divisional round playoffs picks against the spread: Vic Tafur’s predictions

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Let’s not break our arms patting ourselves on the backs. Yeah, 4-2 was nice. But we wanted to go undefeated within the playoffs to make up for the regular season.

The betting lines are particularly tough this week. We do think the Eagles’ number — they’re favored by 7.5 — is just too low. The Eagles were 8-5 against the spread despite being favored every week before Jalen Hurts was injured. They then lost the last 4 games ATS, with Hurts getting the kinks out within the finale.

They’re playing at home and their offensive line and running game, with Hurts and Miles Sanders, isn’t any joke. The Eagles have rushed for a minimum of 130 yards in 10 games, and can achieve this again on Saturday. Our other best bet is the Cowboys to cover the spread against the 49ers. Again, their offensive line is an enormous reason. Enough small talk …

Last week: 4-2 against the spread and 2-1 on best bets.

Regular season: 127-139-5 ATS; 26-27-3 on best bets.

All odds are from BetMGM and are locked when the pick was made. Click here for live odds.

GO DEEPER

With eight NFL playoff teams left, which has the perfect likelihood to win all of it?

The Chiefs at home after every week off — Andy Reid is 27-4 after a bye — looks as if a no brainer. Not to say that Patrick Mahomes made the Jaguars look silly in that 27-17 win in November, completing 26 of 35 passes for 331 yards and 4 touchdowns before handing the ball off within the fourth quarter.

So … like all of us did back in debate class 30 years ago (don’t age me), I attempted to search out the opposing argument. The Jaguars are on a hot streak fiddling with house money, and their defense is playing higher than it was back then — they’ve an athletic front seven and Roy Robertson-Harris is the actual deal. Trevor Lawrence has taken his game to the following level … yada yada yada.

Nah.

Last week, I picked the Chiefs to beat the 49ers within the Super Bowl and this ought to be a comparatively easy first step in that direction. The Jaguars gave up 40 and 34 points, respectively, to the Lions and Cowboys, the 2 good offenses they faced in December. And last week’s comeback win may need been more concerning the Chargers, if we’re honest.

The Jaguars really struggle to cover tight ends and Travis Kelce is the perfect within the business. Jacksonville ranked thirty second in pass defense DVOA vs. tight ends, allowing a league-leading 58 first down or touchdown receptions through the regular season and the third-highest yards/reception on TE targets (13.1).

I imagine they’ve focused on that in practice this week, but playing chess against Reid isn’t any fun. He may have a variety of other things planned and has other hot hands he can lean on. Kadarius Toney is an X-factor and Jerick McKinnon led all players with six receiving TDs off plays contained in the red zone from Weeks 13 to 18. (And the Jaguars let seven halfback screens go for 10-plus yards, tied for fourth-most within the NFL.)

The Jaguars even have been liable to slow starts, which is a foul idea in Arrowhead. Mahomes is 4-0 within the divisional round and has never thrown an interception, and he’s 3-2 against the spread (4-1 overall) when favored by seven or more points within the playoffs. Make it 4-2.

The pick: Chiefs -8.5



Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs should cruise to a different AFC Championship Game. (Jay Biggerstaff / USA Today)

As The Athletic’s Dan Duggan said, it’s hard to search for clues in these teams’ two matchups this season. The Giants rested everybody within the season finale after which back within the 48-22 loss to the Eagles, they didn’t have Leonard Williams, Landon Collins, Jarrad Davis, Adoree’ Jackson or Xavier McKinney.

The Giants are well-coached, Daniel Jones is fiddling with a variety of confidence, Saquon Barkley is certainly one of the highest five most electrifying players within the playoffs and Dexter Lawrence took over the sport last week, pushing the pocket within the face of Minnesota QB Kirk Cousins.

I’m such a tease. I’m taking the Eagles. Hurts appears to be healthy and tackle Lane Johnson is back for what really is a still-underrated offense. Sanders ran for 144 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries in that first matchup and has been slept on all season. He averaged 5.53 yards before contact per carry in that game, his second-highest rate of the season, surpassed only by his Week 8 performance vs. the Steelers, but that one featured just nine carries for Sanders.

The Eagles’ defense, meanwhile, has two shutdown cornerbacks — overkill against Recent York’s receivers — and it locked down the run within the second half of the season. This spread ought to be higher, but everyone has Brian Daboll and Danny Dimes fever, and while they’ve been great, the Giants are within the playoffs a yr ahead of schedule and we’ll see why Sunday.

The pick: Eagles -7.5

go-deeper lazyload

GO DEEPER

NFL Playoffs expert picks, odds: Predictions for each game within the divisional round

I still don’t know why this game isn’t on a neutral site. I picked the Bengals in that season finale matchup and Joe Burrow was shredding the Bills defense before the sport was called off following Damar Hamlin’s cardiac arrest (hat tip to Hamlin’s continued improvement in his recovery). Burrow may be very comfortable against the Bills’ sub-heavy defense — the Bengals ranked third in success rate vs. five or more DBs through the regular season (46.4 percent). Burrow is patient, as that success got here despite the very fact Cincinnati ranked twenty third in explosive play rate against five or more DBs (10.5 percent).

Now, I don’t know if he could be patient given all of the injuries the Bengals have on the offensive line. They were already missing La’el Collins and Alex Cappa before Jonah Williams went down last week against the Ravens. Neither Cappa nor Williams practiced on Thursday.

The Bengals barely beat the Ravens last week, and their offense bogged down, but I credit the Ravens for that. The Bills without Von Miller aren’t an awesome pass-rushing team, they usually are liable to defensive lapses.

I feel the Bengals defense is more balanced than the Bills’ and can contain Josh Allen. The Bills simply don’t beat teams with winning records by a variety of points this season, and an enormous reason for that’s Allen’s generosity. Allen tries to do an excessive amount of and led the NFL with 19 turnovers this season and had three more last week, when he almost lost a playoff game to Skylar Thompson.

Allen is great, mind you, and if he’s dealing on Sunday, we are going to take our L and soldier on. Amongst 34 qualified QBs and including the postseason, Allen has the bottom off-target rate on throws of 15-plus air yards (14.6 percent) and he ranks seventh in EPA/DB on these plays. The Bengals defense finished the regular season ranked eleventh in success rate (58.5 percent) and sixth in EPA per opponent dropback against throws of 15-plus air yards.

But we’re rolling with Burrow and the Bengals defense. Give us the points.

The pick: Bengals +5.5

We flew near the sun last week, picking Dak Prescott as our featured photo to associate with our Cowboys best bet. Dak was dealing, enough in order that he has to provide those that picked the 49ers to roll through the NFC some pause. By EPA per dropback, it was the Tenth-best QB playoff performance since 2010. It was the sixth-best performance of Prescott’s profession (regular season or playoffs) by EPA/DB.

The 49ers are confident because they beat the Cowboys right now last yr but their one glaring weakness appears to be at cornerback, so Prescott and CeeDee Lamb could make things interesting. They’ll must, because it’s tough to see Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard doing much against the 49ers’ run defense.

One thing we should always mention about Prescott’s performance last week — by the numbers, the 49ers’ Brock Purdy was higher. Purdy had the fifth-best QB playoff performance by EPA/DB since 2010.

One query value considering (credit to The Athletic’s Aaron Reiss): Is Purdy raising the 49ers’ offense or is Kyle Shanahan just hitting on all cylinders?

The numbers indicate the latter. Purdy finished the regular season with a completion percentage over expectation of -2. Within the wild-card round, his CPOE was -0.5.

go-deeper lazyload

GO DEEPER

Brock Purdy’s 49ers playoff debut was good, but not pretty much as good as QB’s stats suggest

It’s still amazing to think about how good Purdy looks since he was the last player chosen in last yr’s draft. And he particularly shines moving around within the pocket and increasing plays. Including the playoffs, Purdy has 85 dropbacks this season through which he took three or more seconds to throw. Jimmy Garroppolo had 93 such dropbacks before suffering his foot injury. Here’s how they stack up. (Note: all numbers/rankings on this note include playoffs):

Purdy: 61.1 percent completion rate, 10.78 YPA, 10.78 air yards/attempt, 47.1% percent success rate (which ranks fourth), 40 percent first down rate, 7.7 percent sack rate.

Garoppolo: 51.3 percent completion rate, 7.27 YPA, 11.44 air yards/attempt, 35.1 percent success rate (twenty fourth), 25.8 percent first down rate, 13.3 percent sack rate.

This ought to be an in depth game, with the Cowboys’ massive offensive line holding its own against the 49ers’ pass rushers. And the national stage is about for Micah Parsons to make a superstar turn. Dallas played all the way down to the extent of its opponents all season, but I feel the Cowboys are in an awesome spot to a minimum of lose by a field goal Sunday night. Give us the points.

The pick: Cowboys +4

— TruMedia research courtesy of NFL editor Aaron Reiss. 

(Graphic: Sean Reilly / The Athletic; photo of Miles Sanders: Mitchell Leff / Getty Images)

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